Friday, March 12, 2010

shakespeare, revisited

i walked right past him this time, and never knew he was there. again, perched about 30 feet off the trail, he sat silent in his awesomeness. two women happened to see him and were crouched, taking pictures, oohing and ahhing — thoroughly enjoying their discovery — when i came back up the trail.

hey...wait a minute!! i'm supposed to be the observant one! i don't walk out of my front door without scanning the trees and sky for des oiseaux. i specifically look for owls in the woods when i walk the trails, spending more time looking left, right, and up, than i do focusing on the path in front of me… what's going on here?!?
i feel betrayed.
let down.

oh, get over it. he's there now, so swallow your pride and enjoy this time that you were blessed with. again.

i was without camera, so i had a critical decision to make: go get it and capture the moment on a CompactFlash card (but risk him leaving), or stay put and capture it on my grey matter?

the squishy mass of dendrites and axons that fills up the cavity in the top of my head is becoming less reliable with every passing year. that and my skull is lacking a usb port…i'll go get the camera.

20 minutes later, i came back with my camera, and…

there he was, waiting patiently for me.

shakespeare waiting patiently
what took you so long?

the sun was on him when i left to get the camera, but i was a little dismayed to find him wrapped in the cool blanket of a shadow when i got back.
shakespeare wrapped in shadow
you look vaguely familiar…

a quick turn of my head to look behind me, and i saw that the blanket was only going to get bigger — the sun had fallen behind the trees, trying its best to smile through the spaces in between the many branches, but failing miserably. i faced the owl again, whom i am going to refer to and think of as shakespeare, my pretend pet owl, first encountered over two months ago on the opposite side of the trail. is it possible that this was the same owl? i'm going to ask you to indulge my little fantasy of believing that it was.

as before, i shot plenty of pictures, the first of which i used my on-camera flash. but a rash of guilt quickly spread over me, and i turned off the flash, feeling that i just couldn't subject him to that again. in lieu of good lighting, i 'pulled up some asphalt and had a seat'. we talked. about what he was doing there on that branch so close to the trail, about where his friends were, about what he was going to have for dinner. but mostly we talked about why he remained on that branch…in the shadow. i pleaded with him to move to a nice sunny spot still within camera range.

shakespeare bathed in sun
he obliged.

now i shifted into full gear. armed with a fresh battery and an empty memory card, i snapped and snapped and snapped until my finger hurt. on his new perch, he was more alert to things happening around him. the rustle of a leaf on the forest floor, and he looked down. snap, snap, snap! something heard far off in the distance, and he looked to the right. snap, snap! a dry leaf, stirred by a gentle breeze, rattling against its branch at the top of the tree he was in, and he looked up. more snapping. i stayed there with him for a couple of hours, sometimes taking photos, sometimes letting my camera drop to my side and just staring at this wondrous creature, soaking in its intricate beauty, and the fact that i was nearly eye-to-eye with him.
shakespeare looking around
(click the picture for a larger version)

two and a half hours later, he decided that he wanted some company other than me — someone more engaging, someone able to relate to him more on his level…someone with more feathers. he leaned forward, puffed out his chin feathers, and called for companionship in that trademark hooting pattern of his: "who, who, who-WHOo. who who who-whO WHOOoo."
shakespeare calling all owls
a few seconds later, an answer, higher pitched.

two more calls, two more answers, and he was gone.
shakespeare taking flight
(click the picture for a larger version)

i really must learn to pan with the bird as it flies off. (the picture not shown in this sequence is an empty branch, the camera having not moved an inch.)

instantly i scrambled up and gave chase. a light wind noise up and to my right made me turn my head, and intuition made me raise the camera. his friend soared through the canopy of leafless limbs and out over the trail. snap, snap, snap!
shakespeare's girlfriend?

i quickened my pace and found them up ahead, each occupying a separate tree. as well as we've come to know each other, i admit with a small degree of shame that i couldn't tell one owl from the other. one was larger than the other, but which of those was shakespeare? (i learned later that the females are larger than the males.) i refrained from calling out his name; i'm afraid my fantasy is only shared by one of us.

i snapped a few more pictures, but my time with him had come to a close; my owl had given me his undivided attention for over two hours, and now it was time for him to bid me adieu. he had owls to hang out with, things to catch for dinner, and much hooting to attend to.

and i had a CompactFlash card full of images to go download.


Wanderin' Weeta said...

Those are beautiful! And I admire your patience. A good reminder for the rest of us to just slow down and get to know our neighbours.

Mary said...

I love Shakespeare (the owl).

" pretend pet owl". A kindred spirit!

Your photos are stunning. One day, I will meet an owl. And, I will be there with a camera ready - battery back home in the charger.


Bluebird of Friendliness said...

Beautiful! I dreamed about owls the other night so this was quite a welcome entry :)

Murr Brewster said...

I was all set to say, "no, you stay there and plant him on your retina and stash him in your memory," but then you went and got those amazing pictures. So obviously I am not to be listened to.

dugfresh said...

thanks, all. though most of the credit goes to shakespeare for his excellent modeling chops: he sat still (making it easier to get good focus); he sat in the sun (allowing me to open up wide and use a decently fast shutter speed); and he sat close (allowing me to back off of my 500mm focal length a bit, reducing the effects of camera shake).

Kathie said...

AWESOME! These are some fantastic pictures! And you are a very good writer, if I must say so!

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